|| ||John Morris <jmorris-AT-beau.org>|
|| ||Trademarks and F/OSS|
|| ||Tue, 16 Aug 2005 20:41:23 -0500|
It is time for the community who use and depend on Free/Open Source
Software to open a discussion on Trademarks. It appears successful
projects follow a predictable pattern. They are established, become
popular and establish corporations to make themselves compatible with
the rest of the corporate world.
In and of itself this isn't a problem, and often is a big positive due
to the good things that money can bring to a project. But one problem
is that the corporate world uses Trademarks and our world really can't.
So there are three choices before us.
1. When a project reaches critical mass and needs to incorporate, the
Corporate world takes the original name and it's goodwill along with the
codebase and commercializes it while we fork a different name for
ourselves. i.e. We do the work of changing the thousands of places the
original name appears in webpages, domain names, FAQs, popularizing the
new name, etc.
2. As a community we declare our belief that by the time a Free project
reaches the stage of maturity where incorporation is required that its
original name is generic and untrademarkable. Force the corporation, in
it's initial round of financing, to expend the effort to search out a
fresh trademarkable name for it's product and pay to advertise it.
After all, is Free Software still Free when you can't build the tree as
delivered or distribute the documentation without paying for a license?
3. Resign ourselves to a world where new distributions of Free Software
face the daunting prospect of either conducting an extensive trademark
review and massive renaming project or raising the funds to license an
ever increasing number of trademarks.
Personally I recommend #2 and that we start by moving to void the
trademarks on Linux and Mozilla. If we can win those two fights it will
be clear to the next batch that a fresh new name is the safest course.
The Mozilla Foundation has already mothballed the Mozilla browser suite
so they really should not expend much effort in a fight. They do appear
to be willing to fight for Firefox so let us resolve that it is for them
to distribute in closed binaries to Windows users and that when we use
the Firefox branch of the codebase we call it something else. And make
sure that THEY expend the effort to make it easy for us to do so. That
all interaction with the Free World be through it's unencumbered name.
That means we don't have to keep remembering that to download or report
a bug in IceWeasel you have to go to a different product's site.
Same with Linux. If the corporate world needs a trademarked name (and
it is fairly clear they do) let them expend the effort to run the focus
groups and such to come up with a new one. It would cost the community
a major effort to locate and replace every Linux reference for no net
benefit to us. Let those who will benefit from a trademarked name be
the ones to expend the resources. RedHat and Novell already apply
hundreds of patches to their kernel tree so one more wouldn't be a big
problem for them.
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